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Education defeats Committee Member's alternative model

Education defeats Committee Member's alternative model

Saturday 17 July 2021

Education defeats Committee Member's alternative model


Estranged Education, Sport & Culture Committee Member Andy Cameron could not secure enough votes to overhaul his committee's proposals for the future of secondary and post-16 education.

Deputy Cameron's amendment for 11-16 schools at St Sampson's and Les Beaucamps, plus another 11-16 attached to a sixth form centre at Les Varendes, was downed in the States by 22 votes to 17 after a full day of debate.

Debate should continue on the remaining amendments and the committee's plans next week, although that depends on how long it takes to get through Stage 2 of the Government Work Plan and its ten amendments. 

Deputy Cameron's "do minimum" reorganisation of the education system - which received backing from some teachers' reps and unions in the build-up - was regarded as the main contender to Education's plans for 11-16 schools at Les Beaucamps, Les Varendes and St Sampson’s, with a Sixth Form Centre co-located with the Guernsey Institute at Les Ozouets Campus, which will be demolished and rebuilt

Pictured: The voting record hardened evidence of an unofficial party split within the States. 

The committee's plans have been criticised by teachers, but now appear long odds-on to receive £54m capital backing when debate resumes.

Deputy Cameron said his committee's proposals - which he refused to support - had made the previous committee’s two-school model look "relatively popular" by comparison. 

He noted that it was only at a much later stage in the process, when traffic impact assessments were done and the logistics of two larger schools became apparent, that vocal public and professional support created a wave of opposition that ushered 'three-school' proponents into power at the 2020 island-wide election.

"It was only at a later stage when the shine came off the paintwork and the wheels came off. This model is skidding off the tarmac with bare rims already and it’s barely off the starting grid. It needs a pit stop and that’s why I’m bringing this amendment."

He was unable to substantiate how much his education system would cost, but "anticipated" that his four-site model would save more revenue than ESC's, which could  be re-invested into the schools themselves. 

"[ESC's proposal] might be even more expensive to run than the current system," he argued. "That proposal is to defund the 11-16 sector; this one proposes capital investment and reinvestment of saved revenue in order to improve educational outcomes and educational experience."

Pictured: Les Beaucamps High School teacher Sarah Buck organised a survey of all four mainstream secondary schools. Of those who responded, only 12 out of 194 expressed support for ESC's proposals. 

Significant dispute broke out in the Assembly about teacher surveys and the accuracy of data used to advance arguments on both sides. 

ESC Vice-President Bob Murray said his estranged colleague's amendment was shorn of detail and little more than a "personal educational shopping list" that provided no actual reform. 

"There are no costs and just unsubstantiated claims in both revenue and capital. We have manually modelled [our proposals] to levels of detail that stand up to proof of concept.

"This amendment is the status quo by any other name, other than closing La Mare."

Deputy Rob Prow supported Deputy Murray’s "forensic examination" of the amendment, saying the Assembly should trust ESC to deliver, adding: "we unanimously appointed the current committee to take us out of a period of extended turbulence."

Deputy Neil Inder questioned the motives of some teachers supporting the "do minimum" option. "It is always about them first and at the end you get a line saying "don’t forget it’s all about the children"," he said. 

"We have all become delegates of the unions and that is where we need to change." He spoke about the need to upskill the next generation and said ESC's model would do just that. 

"The mistake you make today [if you support the amendment] will haunt you for the rest of your political lives. It is not what it says it is. It does nothing but keep you back in the past. "

Deputy Bob Murray

Pictured: ESC Vice-President Bob Murray described Deputy Cameron's amendment as an unqualified wish list of ideas. 

Supporting the amendment, Deputy Aidan Matthews said Guernsey's secondary schools would be hamstrung by offering only 11-16 education. He preferred a full 11-18 model, saying there is a reason why the private colleges have a sixth form attached. 

"We are shooting ourselves in the foot for creating a system that is entirely based on 11-16 schools in the States sector," he said. 

Others stressed that the voice of educationalists could not be ignored. For some, the support of teachers for Deputy Cameron's amendment and his approach to staff engagement was telling. 

For Deputy Peter Roffey, it was a superior alternative to "the skimpiest policy letter [ESC's model] I have ever seen that will never come back before the Assembly."

"The current system is fiendishly revenue inefficient and this model replicates that," the former ESC Committee Member warned of the plans led by Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen. 

classroom_teacher.jpg

Pictured: Teachers say that not enough operational detail has been worked by the Education Committee in consultation with the profession. 

Deputy Dudley-Owen followed up her opening speech on Thursday with an impassioned plea to the Assembly on Friday evening to reject the amendment. 

The States ultimately rejected the amendment - which was probably the most likely to topple ESC's policy letter -  by 22 votes to 17. 

It is hoped that debate will continue next week. Otherwise, the States may not have chance to conclude the debate until after its summer recess. 

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